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Marie Widengård


Institutionen för globala
Konstepidemins väg 2
41314 Göteborg
Box 700
40530 Göteborg

Om Marie Widengård

‘Just Fossil-free Fuels: Can we equitably manage biofuels?’ I ask in my current project, 2020-2023. Sweden has set ambitious goals within its climate work to achieve a fossil-free society by 2045. Much indicates that liquid biofuels will be a central part of the transition, but biofuels are still associated with significant uncertainties and conflict lines. The aim of this project is to increase knowledge about Swedish visions of fossil- free fuels, specifically how a fair transition to liquid biofuels can be achieved. In doing so, me and my research partner engage with Swedish actors who in various ways affect biofuel politics domestically and transnationally, and analyse strategic documents, parliamentary debates, media and interactive events, in combination with interviews with key actors. Our research questions are: what are the prominent storylines surrounding biofuel futures in Sweden; how can Swedish actors steer ethical issues of justice and take responsibility for biofuel futures, both nationally and transnationally; and how can exemplary ‘just biofuel transitions’ be created? These questions will be addressed through a politically and ethically oriented transition lens, which lends itself well to analysing energy justice and these kinds of multi-scalar and multi-actor processes. Project outcomes will be increased knowledge of how to equitably manage the end of fossil-free fuels, how to integrate fossil-free visions with ideals of justice and welfare; and more pragmatically, how to shift from unjust to just forms of biofuel transition, both in Sweden and transnationally.

My work is located in environmental social science, involving political ecology, political economy, science and technology studies, assemblage thinking, and governmentality, ecofeminism, posthuman and more-than-human perspectives. I have been working as an adjunct lecturer at Global Studies since 2015, in various themes within our courses on natural resources and global consumption, environmental politics and movements, sustainable cities, sustainable development, gender theory and gendered political economy, methods and research design.

My PhD work focused on the theme of biofuels, and I examined some of the processes, discourses, materialities, technologies, and relationships involved in the production of biofuels. I approached production as an assembling of components that are both material and expressive, and I looked at the work needed to maintain and/or dismantle biofuel resources and the implications. Biofuels had come to represent the will to mitigate climate change by replacing fossil fuels with so-called climate-friendly and renewable plant sources, and to improve rural and poor conditions in the South through biofuel crop production, farm job creation, and smallholder cash cropping. The expansion of biofuels in countries in the South largely pivoted upon ‘the will to develop’, specifically through the oil shrub Jatropha curcas L. However, these ‘wills’ have intertwined with other intentions, processes, and relations, and have created new problems, including land grabbing, food competition, displacement of local people, and deforestation. Thus for critics, biofuels produce not simply wins but also losses, and losers. The purpose of the thesis was not to take sides in this polarised debate but to cut through the debate with an assemblage and governmentality analytics, investigating how overlapping and competing discourses, materialities, technologies, and relationships shape biofuels. Taking an ethnographic and multi-sited approach, I looked at biofuels as a project in-the-making going on in, and across, various sites, including Zambia, sub-Saharan Africa, the European Union, and the so-called global space. I used biofuels’ novelty and ‘becomingness’ to render strange more familiar notions, to generate an analytics of how political ecologies and political economies are becoming, and to provide deeper insights into what resources, sustainability, poverty, land, and nation-states actually are. This approach suggests that the production of biofuels is complex and ‘messy’, and that outcomes for societies and ecologies are of an uncertain and ambiguous nature.

Previous to my PhD work, I worked four years in non-governmental organisations in sub-Saharan Africa. My university studies include law, environmental and water engineering, participatory research, and rural development. My bachelor and master theses investigated the theme of participatory plant breeding and intellectual property rights of plants and genes, with field work in Nicaragua. I have been consulting in sustainability standard development and certification application (ISO and RSB), and conducted various scientific literature reviews.